Dennis M's Chess Site

This is a blog for chess fans by a chess fan. I enjoy winning as much as anyone else, and I've had a reasonable amount of success as a competitor, but what keeps me coming back to the game is its beauty. And that, primarily, is what this site will be about! All material copyrighted.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Kasparov's Queen's Gambit DVD

Earlier today I received ChessBase's DVD of Kasparov on the Queen's Gambit, and so far I have to say that I'm very pleasantly surprised. (I also have to say that I work for ChessBase, so while I'm not writing this to be a corporate shill, the reader should certainly be apprised of my potential conflict of interest.)

In general, my feelings about video presentations is that while they're entertaining and can be a useful way to express concept-based material (as opposed to variations and games), they're often a way for lazy presenters to make a quick buck while presenting a miniscule amount of material compared to what's available in a book.

However, while I think that this DVD is best supplemented by print and/or database materials (Sadler's terrific book on the Queen's Gambit Declined comes to mind), it's a very useful work on this opening in its own right.

In particular, I'd like to single out three virtues I've noticed so far:

1. Kasparov does an outstanding job of giving the viewer the lay of the land: you'll know, if you watch diligently, how the opening evolved, what the significant variations are and the problems each is trying to solve.

2. The viewer is told where to go for further information. Contrary to at least one typical video format, where lines with optimistic conclusions are offered and presented as if the final word, Kasparov offers objective evaluations, notes what others think and gives them credit for their contributions, and tells the viewer what games were important and which players (including among his contemporaries) are models to follow in which lines.

3. Kasparov does a terrific job of blending particular details with conceptual information. While he presents a tremendous amount of material (by video standards), the why is always made quite explicit, so that even if the viewer forgets the details, she may well understand enough to work out the lines for herself - if you understand the problems to be solved and the typical resources at your disposal, a solution may be nearer than you think.

One warning: because Kasparov blitzes through so much material so quickly, repeated viewings are going to be a must. There's a slogan for public speakers that says "less is more," but when you have the option of watching the video again and again, I disagree: more is more, and Kaparov delivers.

Second warning: both the pacing and sophistication of the presentation will challenge the viewer, especially, in my opinion, players under 1800 with little-to-no familiarity with the Queen's Gambit. That's not to say they should immediately rule this product out, but they will probably find the going especially difficult and might want to find a different introductory source to the opening and only then try the DVD. (If others have seen this video, I welcome your comments, especially if you disagree.)


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